One thing is sure at Old Tbilisi Garden on Bleecker Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village, you won’t leave hungry. OK, I knew going here that I was going to get the cheesy bread thing I’ve seen posted everywhere. Not schooled in Georgian cuisine, I wasn’t sure what it was, but my waiter educated me on how to eat it. The most popular variation is the adjaruli khachapuri, a boat-shaped bread filled with sulguni cheese and topped with an egg and butter. I wasn’t familiar with sulguni cheese, but it is a stringy cheese made from cow and/or buffalo milk. What you do is break the egg and mix it together with the cheese. Then, you break off bits of the bread to dip in the cheesy mixture and enjoy! This is a meal in itself! The bread dough here was very good, reminiscent of my grandma’s delicious calzone dough. It is the perfect example to show that something so simple as bread, or dough, can be amazing.
I didn’t want my meal to consist of only carbs and fat, so I also got a Georgian salad, which was a pretty basic salad with a large enough portion for a few people.
For protein, I got the bazhe chicken appetizer in which chicken pieces are topped with a walnut sauce sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. This dish is served cold, and the sauce had a curry-like flavor to me.
Old Tbilisi Garden is a popular spot with a bustling business. It’s best to make a reservation, as I had been turned away on a prior occasion. This time, I didn’t have one but luckily, there was a table available on a busy weeknight.
A friend told me about Pisillo Italian Panini and I’m glad he did. Not only are the sandwiches delicious, but the owner comes from the town near my grandfather’s in Italy, Sant’Agata de’ Goti. Sant’Agata de’ Goti is a prototypical Medieval Italian city located in the province of Benevento in the Campania region of Italy near Naples. A truly delightful place to visit and the hometown of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s grandfather.
Pisillo is a small shop in Manhattan’s Financial District that does a brisk lunch business. Sometimes the line is out the door, but luckily, there are menus tacked up everywhere so you can read the long list of sandwiches before you get to the counter.
There is a variety of bread for your sandwich, including focaccia, ciabatta and sfilatino, a long, crunchier bread that would be familiar to Italian Americans but maybe not so to others.
I ordered the Sant’Agata with mortadella, fresh mozzarella, tomato and arugula on sfilatino. The sandwich is very large and was very tasty.
Pisillo’s is so popular that it opened a coffee shop next door. The coffee shop has some seating as well that you are welcome to if there are no seats at the sandwich shop. When I visited, the coffee shop had a minimal amount of pastries. Some cannoli, sfogliatelle and cookies. I opted for the pretty cannoli.
While it was pretty, I wasn’t sure about the filling. It was different from what I’m used to with ricotta cream. So I wasn’t able to discern what it was. Maybe ricotta with confectioners’ sugar? Not sure.
I wouldn’t say the panini shop or the coffee shop are bringing anything new to New York that the Italian immigrants of old didn’t introduce before, but both are a nice addition to an area lacking in good food choices and Italian choices.
Posted in Bread, Cannoli, Italian
Tagged Bill de Blasio, cannoli, Financial District, Italian, panini, Pisillo, sandwich, sandwiches, Sant'Agata de' Goti, sfilatino
I got some pan de muerto, or pan de los muertos, from a Mexican bakery for Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, also known as All Souls’ Day, November 2. Pan de muerto is a sweet bread made for the occasion that is a round loaf with bone shapes on top. Some of the bread is shaped like a person.
I saw a wonderful replica of an ofrenda, a Day of the Dead altar, at the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Taralli are a Southern Italian snack food. If you’ve visited Italian-American bakeries or grocery stores, you may have seen the ring-shaped snack food sold in different varieties, such as fennel-flavored. These crunchy snacks originate in Southern Italy. Like much of Italian food, taralli are different in different regions.
In Naples, they are traditionally made with lard, pepper and almonds. They were first made from scraps of leftover bread dough. To this dough was added lard and pepper. In the Neapolitan language, lard is “nzogna,” so you will see these as nzogna and pepe. In Naples today, you will see this variety also has almonds. Almonds were added in the 1800s, but the older version of these did not have almonds. This older version is what my mother remembers at bakeries of her youth, bakeries that carried on Southern Italian traditions from the late 1800s here in the United States. In fact, there were other crunchy breads that also had lard and pepper added to them.
In times past, the taralli vendor would sell the snack from a cart. In Napoli today, miniature depictions of taralli vendors are sold on Via San Gregorio Armeno where you can find the famous presepio, or Nativity figures.
In Puglia, taralli, or tarallini, are usually smaller, more crunchy and smoother with no almonds. They are not made with lard but with olive oil and are often flavored with fennel or chili. These are the ones most often found in Italian-American bakeries and stores. They can also be made sweet instead of savory, which is popular in Basilicata.
The origin of the word “taralli” is unknown, but it is thought to derive from the Greek word toros, meaning toroidal or round. Or the Greek word daratos for a kind of bread. It could also be from torrere, Latin for toast, or for a French type of bread.
Taralli are served year round but also during Carnevale. They are made by either baking or by boiling then baking, similar to bagels.
They are plentiful at bakeries in Naples. I like the nzogna e pepe from Leopoldo Infante.
Posted in Bread, Italian, Olive Oil
Tagged bagel, Baked, boiled, Carnevale, daratos, Italian, Naples, Napoli, nzogna, olive oil, pepe, presepio, round, snack, sugna, taralli, tarallo, toroidal, toros, torrere, Via San Gregorio Armeno
Standard Foods is the perfect name for this Raleigh restaurant by former Herons executive chef Scott Crawford. All the foods here are locally sourced, whole foods. And there’s a market attached so you can purchase them to cook at home. Kudos to you if you can cook them with an expert hand like this chef. I’ll stick with dining at the restaurant.
My friend and I started with smoked pecans from the snacks section of the menu. I guessed they would have some kind of seasoning on them. But they tasted like they had been cooked in a smoker. They are so wonderfully addictive.
We ordered a turnip and apple salad from the small plates section. Is this the first time someone is writing that a turnip salad was absolutely delicious? But this one is. All the elements, including the creamy dressing and cheese, work well together.
We followed with a nice, slightly sweet butternut squash ravioli.
The roasted chicken breast and leg cooked in duck fat with mushrooms and carrots is a very generous large plate. The chicken breast was cooked perfectly. The leg was very rich. We shared this dish, so it worked out well for two. The carrots had a delightful sweet glaze.
The potato puree arrived in adorable Le Creuset cookware. I really liked this very smooth version of mashed potatoes.
The sopping bread was a very nice multigrain bread from Boulted Bread.
For dessert, I got the sweet potato cheesecake, a deconstructed version of cheesecake with these caramel popcorn pieces and a creme fraiche. Divine! Just wish the serving was bigger!
I was so excited to find this whole buttermilk from Harrisburg Dairies at Whole Foods. So I decided to make my favorite buttermilk dish–cornbread in buttermilk.
Here’s the cornbread:
And here’s the yum:
I also made this Grape-Nuts bread from A Family Feast that uses buttermilk. It’s very similar to Irish soda bread with the added crunch and flavor of Grape-Nuts cereal. (I had to bake it for about an hour and a half so check the time.)
Posted in Bread